Friday 20 February 2015

After Me Comes the Flood

(February 2015)

Starts strong but fades a little, though is all the while executed in the most beautifully, transparently opaque prose, which is a ridiculous oxymoron but I can’t think of anything more apt. I know what I mean.

John Cole is a bit of an empty cipher, listless and without direction. Apropos of nothing much, he sets off to visit his brother on the East Anglian coast. En route his car breaks down, and he finds sanctuary in an isolated house where everyone seems to be expecting him, even though he’s never been there or met any of them before. The first third of the book is excellent, as Jon meets these people who all think they know him, finds a room prepared with all ‘his’ stuff, and struggles with his conscience for accepting hospitality from a cast of people who approach but never quite become grotesques. It’s reminiscent of We Have Always Lived in the Castle in the way it invokes a disconcertingly off-kilter isolated community wrapped up in a world of their own devising. High praise indeed.

However, the reason for all these people being where they are, and being how they are, is revealed fairly early, and this anchoring of the plot and characters in the mundane dispels a lot of that of that magically disconcerting uncertainty. What follows is basically a well-crafted melodrama, and for all that it is very, very well written, after the tantalizing hint of what might have been it’s hard not to feel a little nonplussed. I mean there’s still a lot to like: the writing is genuinely excellent and if anything the sly humour gets funnier as the book progresses. And, as befits a book with ‘Flood’ in the title, there’s a shit-ton of religious allusion floating about: a former priest who lost his faith; a brother and sister combo whom an overbearing parental figure ineffectively seeks to protect from loss of innocence; a woman called Eve (Eve!) inspiring lust and jealousy; trinities; gardens; etc, etc. Lots to get your teeth into there, if you’re so inclined.

Or you could just take it at face value, which is what I chose to do. Enjoy the language and let the human relations pull you along for the ride. There are definitely worse ways to spend time and ink. After Me Comes the Flood is good book that started out great, so not bad for a debut effort, all in all. Lovely cover, too.

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